Teatro Music Hall

Calle del Parque,
San Juan

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Teatro Music Hall now Victoria Espinosa

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This movie theater was part of the Del Parque street movie section that included the Radio City, Excelsior, Rex and Matienzo. One of the first features shown there was "The Robe" back in the 1950’s.

It was later run by MGM, along with the Metro. During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, it only showed MGM movies (the ones that were not important enough to be shown at the Metro) and Disney features.

The Music Hall is known to a whole generation of fans as the place to see all the great kiddie movies. From the "Absent minded Professor" to "Swiss Family Robinson" to the "Tom and Jerry" festivals, they were all shown here.

In the late 1970’s , MGM sold the the theater and it stopped being the great place for kiddie movies. It became an independent theater and the quality of films dropped considerably. It featured mostly obscure titles, although the ocassional gem such as "Tati’s Traffic" would appear out of the blue.

In the early 1980’s, all of the Del Parque street movie houses began closing one by one, and the Music Hall was no exception. The last movie to play there was the lackluster film "Players" starring Ali McGraw. The name of that movie remained on the marquee for years.

In the mid 1990’s, the Puerto Rican government began a project to convert it into an experimental theater venue. It seemed like a great idea, but as usual, they botched up the job. They completely tore down the interior of the theater and only the outer shell remained!!!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, they ran out of funds and have let it stand in that condition for years. A sad ending to a place that brings so many wonderful memories to so many.

Contributed by Jose Mendez

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Andres
Andres on January 6, 2006 at 6:16 am

Hello, JSA, and a Happy New Year to you too!!!!!
You know, you are probably right after all. Before home video the studios re-released their top movies on first run theaters. Also, schools used to rent theaters in the morning to show special films to the students. On Easter, some first run theaters played biblical films up to Good Friday — though some played them up to Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, more on this later — and then opened their Easter attraction on Holy Saturday. The first 70mm film to play in PR was South Pacific at the Metropolitan. The following year Ben-Hur premiered there so it was probably the 70mm print. The Metropolitan was renovated and opened as a roadshow (2 shows a day) house with Around The World in 80 Days in 35 mm scope with a terrific stereo soundtrack. The “first” 70mm film was Oklahoma, filmed in both Cinemascope and Todd-AO 70mm because at the time they could not do 35mm reduction prints because of the different frame-per-second speed. Later the problem was solved and 35mm prints could be made fom 70mm negatives. You probably know all this and that 70mm films were made in the early 1930’s such as The Big Trail with John Wayne and The Bat in Grandeur 70. Back to PR:
The Puerto Rico and then the Metro and the Cortes installed 70mm. The Puerto Rico never showed 70mm, its equipment was later transferred to the Cinerama when they stopped making 3-strip Cinerama films and “Cinerama” films began to be filmed in 70mm Super Panavision. During the first Easter that the Plaza 1 and 2 where open, the 1 was showing Sweet Charity and the 2 — the smaller house — The 10 Commandments. At about noon on Easter Sunday, the manager called me and told me there was a “motin” at the box office because 10 Commandments was full and Charity had sold less tan a 100 tickets. I told him to switch the films and Commandemts went in the 1 and Charity to the 2. We made a lot of money, Commandments played for about 2 weeks, I think.
It’s a shame that NY, “the capital of the world” — where Cinerama was born — does not have a Cinerama theater. Best, Andres.

JSA
JSA on January 7, 2006 at 2:03 pm

Andres,

It is interesting that you mention “Around the World in 80 Days” and the stereo soundtrack. I vaguely remember someone in the mid or early 80’s complaining in El Nuevo Dia about the poor “quality” of sound in some of the theatres (which shall remain un-named!) back then. He then went on raving about the Metropolitan and specifically mentioned two movies: “Around the World…” and “The Longest Day” as having a superior stereo sound. I know how terrific the Metropolitan sound was, because I saw “Tora! Tora! Tora!” there, and as young
child, both the images and sound caused an incredible impression in me, second only to “2001” at the Metro.

PS: Are there any plans to restore Cinerama in NYC? The Dome here at LA screened a 3-strip “How the West was Won” in November. Although some “purists” complained a bit, I thought that it was a great experience, with some of the sharpest color images I have ever seen on screen.

Regards,

JSA

Andres
Andres on January 8, 2006 at 7:34 am

Hi, JSA:-
Cinerama premiered at the Broadway Theater here in 1952. It is the only motion picture to be reviewed on the front page of the NY Times. And today, when Cinerama is being revived in LA, Seattle and other ciies around the world, NY, “the capital of the world,” does not have a Cinerama theatre. The only single screen house left in NY is the Ziegfeld, which has a terrific projection and sound system. In the late 70’s or early 80’s, they showed a 70mm print of “This is Cinerama” in a curved screen they installed in front of the regular screen — the regular screen is pretty big, wall to wall, but is not curved.
The only big movie palace of old left here is the Mayfair (later renamed as the DeMille and then triplexed and became the Embassy 2-3-4 — The Embassy 1 was a block down the street and is now te NY visitors center. It is on 7th Ave. and 47th St. and has been closed or years. The marquee says it is for rent, but nothing has happened. I have suggested on its page here at Cinema Treasures that it be renovated as a 3-strip Cinerama/70mm house. I have also written to “everyone” from a contact I have at City Hall, to the president of the NY Tourism Co. whom I happen to know, to members of the City Council of the culture/film/theater commitee, to Donald Trump, to no avail. Now I am thinking of writing to former mayor Ed Koch who is a die hard movie fan and writes a movie column in a local community paper, The Villager. I think a Cinerama house here would be a terrific tourism attraction.
By the way, JSA, feel free to contact me directly at
Best, Andres.

Andres
Andres on January 8, 2006 at 1:15 pm

JSA:=
Forgot to tell you…
Have you seen the special edition DVD of the original King Kong? There’s a docu on Merriam C. Cooper that mentions his involvement in developing Cinerama which includes a segment of the opening scenes of This is Cinerama made to look as if it is shown on a big curved screen.
Also, in the 50th anni DVD of Oklahoma, there is a featurette showing the filming of the CinemaScope version and the 70mm Todd-AO version. A shame they did not put the same scene of both versions together like they did some years ago on American Movie Classics. There they had a scene in CinemaScope at the top and Todd-AO at the bottom, and you could see different hand and head movements in the same scene. The CinemaScope version was like a “dress rehearsal,” and the 70mm version is real thing. Best, Andres.

JSA
JSA on January 9, 2006 at 12:56 pm

Hello Andres,

Thanks!!! As soon as I figure out my scanner, I’ll send you some “goodies” from the recent Dome presentaion of “How the West was Won”. We gave our son the King Kong Special Edtion DVD for Christmas, but I have not yet seen the special features. Will check it out!
It’s also too bad that they did not do the scene comparison as in the “Oklahoma!” AMC presentation for the “Around the World…” DVD.

Regards,

JSA

cineast
cineast on September 22, 2006 at 1:53 am

The Music Hall Theatre was a small movie house tucked away behind the Matienzo Theatre and across the street from the Radio City/Excelsior at del Parque Street. It was family oriented and played all the mayor Disney releases. In the ticket booth, behind the cashier, was a framed picture of a platinum blonde woman. Til this day the indentity of this blonde remains a mystery. The side wall of the Matienzo Theatre that led out to Ponce de Leon Avenue served as a long resctangular billboard for the movies playing at the Music Hall. It had a small marquee and an elegant vertical neon sign crowned with a neon torch. Whether the torch was simbolic or merely ornamental, I never knew. Years after the Musical Hall closed, a hurricane hit the island damaging this neon sign extensively, and the torch was twisted and almost ripped off the sign. This sorry sight remained for many years until the recent restoration started. Some of the movies I remember playing here during the 1970’s and into the 1980’s were “Barefoot in the Park,” “Star!” starring Julie Andrews, “Bugsy Malone,” “The Blue Bird,” “The Land That Time Forgot,” “International Velvet” starring Tatum O'Neal, “Hair,” “Corvett Summer,” “Freaky Friday,” “Benji,” and “Herbie Rides Again” among many. Oddly enough, not so family oriented movies played at the Music Hall every once in a while. Among them flicks like “Abby,” “Bug,” “Tidal Wave,” “Squirm,” and a low budget knock-off of “The Towering Inferno” called either “The Glass Tower” or “The Glass Inferno,” or something like that. Not sure of the title since the movie has failed to surface ever again. While sitting in the balcony of the theatre you could admire a long, diagonal modernist mural running perpendicular to the screen. I wonder if in the current restoration they have managed to save it. It gave the auditorium a distinct touch.

cineast
cineast on September 22, 2006 at 5:15 am

On the left side of Music Hall Theatre, there was a narrow driveway. Perhaps for the staff of the theatre. It only parked a few cars, not a lot. If I remember well, this driveway had a rod iron gate that was very ornate and pretty. At the top of this gate the words “Music Hall” were spelled in curved and twisted rod iron. I am sure this gate does not exist any more. It gave a nice touch to this little jewel. Hopefully in its next incarnation as a legit theatre, the Music Hall will preserve its original charm.

cineast
cineast on October 21, 2006 at 9:05 pm

The speculated movie with the uncertain title, mentioned above, that shortly played at the Music Hall in the mid 1970’s, was “The Blazing Tower” starring John Forsythe and Joseph Campanella. A low budget rip-off of “The Towering Inferno” that is best left unremembered.

cineast
cineast on September 21, 2007 at 4:55 am

The Music Hall has been totally renovated and its interior totally restructured as the Victoria Espinoza Experimental Theater. I believe it is set to open in the next few months or so. The marquee is already up and lit and the building has a fresh coat of paint. It will be a smaller annex to its larger counterpart, the newly opened, Francisco Arrivi Theatre. Formerly the Matienzo Theatre. It is great seeing this forgotten movie strip coming back to life as a legit stage street. Both theaters look great!

rrstar96
rrstar96 on September 24, 2010 at 7:31 am

Back in the 1970s, the Music Hall played Mel Brooks' Western spoof “Blazing Saddles” and the science-fiction classic “Forbidden Planet”.

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